Pickens continues fighting ‘black people food’ federal discrimination lawsuit

Madeleine Pickens proudly announces the newest additions to the SMU mascot arsenal. The two mustangs were donated by Mrs. Pickens during a halftime presentation midway through the SMU versus Navy football game at Ford Stadium/Steve Hamm

Lawyers for a former chef at Madeleine Pickens’ $1,650 per night, minimum 4-night stay, dude ranch south of Wells, Nevada have filed an amended complaint in U.S. District Court in Reno. They allege Pickens made racially discriminating remarks like asking him to cook “black people food.”

The complaint filed this week meets the deadline imposed by U.S. District Judge Miranda Du, who dismissed Armand Appling’s original lawsuit in late December but allowed time for an amended complaint. Appling is African-American.

Appling’s lawyer, Willie Williams of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., said Tuesday the new complaint provides additional information to show why Pickens was “racially insensitive” in her words and actions. He said the complaint filed Monday provides more context and explanation of racial stereotypes.

Appling’s amended lawsuit seeks monetary relief from Pickens, who owns the Del Mar Country Club in California and the large ranch in Elko County and is founder of Saving America’s Mustangs. The suit is filed against the country club in Rancho Santa Fe, California, and Saving America’s Mustangs rather than Pickens as an individual, but the suit targets her. Saving American’s Mustangs operates the ranch resort. The ranch also is a private wild horse sanctuary.

“We deny his allegations, and we expect to be vindicated in court,” Pickens’ lawyer, Dora Lane of Holland & Hart LLP in Reno, said Wednesday.

Pickens told the Free Press in November she didn’t comment on lawsuits.

Pickens is a vocal advocate for privatizing the West’s wild horses, placing free-ranging horses into the hands of herself and her associates. She also raised funds last year to benefit Trump’s presidential campaign. Her July 13 fundraiser alone, co-hosted by Doug and Geniya Manchester at Del Mar Country Club, which is Pickens’ primary residence, charged up to $450,000 a ticket and raised over $4 million, according to published reports.

The judge said during the hearing in late December that Appling’s lawyers had failed so far to prove the racial hostility needed to win a civil rights claim.

“It takes a lot to prove these allegations,” Du told Williams in the hearing, according to The Associated Press.

Appling’s amended lawsuit repeats allegations in the original suit, including saying Pickens asked Appling to prepare “black people food,” such as fried chicken, barbecued ribs, mashed potatoes and corn bread, at the Mustang Monument Eco-Resort at Pickens’ ranch.

Lane argued that food is often categorized, such as Chinese or Mexican food.

The judge agreed at the hearing in Reno that the only comment that specifically referred to race was the reference to “black people food,” AP reported.

The amended lawsuit states that “black people food” describes food by skin color rather than by ethnic or national origin.

Pickens allegedly told Appling the food samples he prepared while still in the country club would be good at the ranch but with less salt. “I know that’s hard for you since it’s in your genetics to eat salty food,” she allegedly said.

Inside “Cottage #1” at Pickens’ Wells, Nevada, upscale dude ranch where rates begin at $1,650 per night, minimum 4-night stay.

The amended lawsuit also states that Pickens referred to another African-American employee on more than one occasion as her “ox” or “bull” because of the manual labor assigned to him. Williams said Appling was deeply offended by Pickens’ reference to an African-American as an animal.

In addition, the suit alleges that Pickens told Appling that two African-American kitchen employees “didn’t fit the image” of the staff she wanted at the ranch resort. Appling contends this was because they were African-American. The two were fired. Pickens told Appling that one of those employees had too much personality. “We already have one of you,” she allegedly said. The lawsuit stated that this comment was offense to Appling because “one of you” referred to race.

Appling lost his job after he left the ranch when Pickens allegedly threw trash at him and said: “Here, you take this out.”

Pickens brought Appling to the ranch from the country club to be a chef and help get the resort ready to open in 2014, and he thought he could go back to the country club after leaving the ranch. He spent five months at the ranch.

The ranch and country club operations were connected so Appling also lost his job at the country club, according to the amended lawsuit.

Armand Appling

The amended complaint also states that Appling brought his concerns to managers at the ranch and country club during his time at the ranch regarding racial harassment.

Additionally, the amended lawsuit includes a copy of notice of right to sue from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dated Nov. 30, 2015.

Williams filed a lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court regarding complaints against Pickens, as well. Another attorney, Arthur Williams of Las Vegas, is on the Reno lawsuit because Willie Williams isn’t licensed in Nevada.

Willie Williams said “discovery is proceeding” in the complaint filed in Reno, and he expects to take depositions soon.

Pickens, a wealthy philanthropist, is the ex-wife of T. Boone Pickens, who once sought to take over Newmont Mining Corp., including its mines in Nevada.

Adella Harding  of Cheyenne, Wyoming is a freelance correspondent who was a staff writer and mining editor at the Elko Daily Free Press for many years. This story originally appeared at the Daily Free Press and is used by permission.

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